Erie County agencies honor fallen officers

SANDUSKY A procession of about 25 Erie County law enforcement agents and 20 civilians gathered on Su
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



A procession of about 25 Erie County law enforcement agents and 20 civilians gathered on Sunday morning at the county's peace officer memorial in remembrance of those who died in the line of duty.

Vermilion police chief Bob Kish gave the keynote address and Brittany Burke and Mark Ziegler of the Perkins high school band performed taps.

Mothers, daughters, other family and fellow officers were in attendance. All were family, and they will never forget.

"That's why we do it every year," said Jared Oliver, President of Erie County's the Fraternal Order of Police. "It's our way of saying thanks. "It's our way of never forgetting."

Anita Carrion, 48, mother of the late Robert Perez, who died on Peace Officer Memorial Day in 2000 at the age of 24, visited the memorial on Sunday as she does every year on May 15.

A reportedly suicidal man crashed into her son and his cruiser while it was sitting off the road near the Ohio Turnpike's Sandusky-Norwalk exit.

"He was very dedicated," said Carrion. "He was a very loyal, dedicated son; committed to everything he set out to do."

Jean Leake, 70, daughter of the late Leroy Bedell, was also present as her father was honored.

Bedell, a state highway patrolman, died in 1935 of head injuries after a motorcycle crash involving a loose dog.

Vermilion officer Francis Smolka, 24, died in 1978 from a medical condition caused by a struggle with an inmate who resisted being put in his cell.

"He was a very good officer, very smart," said Kish who entered the force with Smolka in 1977. "But he was also one of those individuals who would also keep you laughing; always cracking jokes. He was a fun guy to be around."

Among the other officers recognized was Sandusky police officer Levi Clemons, who died of rabies in 1916 after being bitten by a dog while he was on duty.

Highway patrolman Paul McManis died in 1941 after an errant driver crashed into the side of his cruiser.

Erie County Sheriff Captain Paul Sigsworth said some of these servicemen have no known family, which is why it's up to current peace officers and the community to preserve their memory.

Carrion said that's why she visits the memorial every year.

"I do not want my son to be forgotten," she said. "He laid his life down to help others. He was serving the community and the people. It just pleases me. It's important for me to be there and let his legacy go on."

Fallen officers

*Levi Clemons: April 4, 1906, Sandusky police

*Leroy S. Bedell: Aug. 20, 1935, State highway patrol

*Paul McManis: Sept. 28, 1941, State highway patrol

*Francis Smolka: Oct. 29, 1978, Vermilion police

*Robert Perez Jr.: May 15, 2000, State highway patrol